There were a lot of disgruntled Kimpton fans on the internet message boards when IHG announced that it was going to be taking over their beloved boutique brand. There were a lot of genuine concerns that the things that made Kimpton special would be lost in the corporate behemoth that is IHG.
However, since the take over, IHG seems to have done a pretty good job of allaying those fears. Kimpton’s loyalty program (Karma Rewards) has been run in parallel to IHG Rewards and there hasn’t been much sign of IHG taking a wrecking ball to the Kimpton brand. In fact Kimpton seems to have thrived.
USA Today has reported that, since the takeover by IHG, Kimpton has signed 10 new properties, opened 7 new hotels (a Kimpton all-time record) and, last month, announced its first property outside of the Americas – in Amsterdam.
IHG’s CEO, Richard Solomons, told USA Today:
It’s very important to us that we maintain what has been successful with that brand but help them when they can.
We’re not going to change what makes them special but we will help them grow.
That should be music to the ears of Kimpton loyalists who have been waiting to see when the first real signs of IHG’s influence will begin to show.
The fact is that Kimpton has kept a lot of its autonomy since the IHG takeover…almost to a surprising degree.
Kimpton maintains its own headquarters and CEO in San Francisco while IHG has its US headquarters in Atlanta…and this is not just some oversight yet to be addressed. It has been done on purpose.
Kimpton’s CEO, Mike DeFrino told USA Today:
We’ve made the decision to keep the Kimpton operation separate from IHG operations as Kimpton still maintains its autonomy in San Francisco and an office there that is focused on the delivery of the Kimpton experience in all of our hotels.
The development, the design, the creation of the restaurants and bars is all done still by Kimpton in San Francisco.
IHG clearly sees a benefit in keeping Kimpton’s brand and operations separate from its other brands (like InterContinental and Holiday Inn) and they appear to be taking an approach of “if it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it”….which is a refreshing change. There was nothing much wrong with Kimpton when IHG pounced and the bigger of the two corporations appears to have recognized that fact and is leaving the smaller one alone…at least for now.
It will be interesting to see if Marriott takes a similar approach with its impending takeover of Starwood.
While Starwood is hardly a boutique brand like Kimpton it is a very different beast to most of the current Marriott offerings and Starwood loyalists are already airing all the same fears that we heard from Kimpton fans over a year ago.
I have my doubts whether Marriott will take as much of a hands-off approach with Starwood as IHG appears to have done with Kimpton…but then not many people expected a post-take over Kimpton to still have as strong an identity as it still does…so anything is possible.
While I’m mentioning the Marriott take over of Starwood it’s probably worth noting that the two hotel chains have announced that the anti-trust waiting period in the US has expired which means that:
[T]he parties have cleared the premerger antitrust review in the United States, satisfying one of the closing conditions of the pending combination transactions.
[T]he companies announced that the premerger waiting period under Canadian law has expired and that the Competition Bureau of Canada has issued a “no-action letter” in respect of the proposed transaction. The companies are continuing to cooperate with competition authorities in other jurisdictions worldwide to obtain regulatory approvals for the transaction.
The Marriott take over of Starwood is gathering momentum so we’re a little bit closer to seeing how that’s all going to pan out. For the sake of Starwood elites I hope it goes the same way as IHG ‘s take over of Kimpton…but I’m not holding my breath on that one.
Featured image: The Kimpton Hotel Zamora St Pete Beach – courtesy of Kimpton